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    Default D&D, Systems And Storytelling

    Folks, due to the recent, spirited discussions on this topic, I figured they deserved their own thread, if only to hamper rampant thread-derailment.

    Let's keep this thread 'baggageless' as possible and try not to get it locked. Please respect each others' playstyles. It is a frickin' game, after all. And Please, please, please, no insults. On the flipside, try not to read too much into other posters words. And of course play by the rules.. http://www.giantitp.com/forums/announcement.php?a=1


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    So, there's been some contention as to how much mechanics get in the way of Storytelling w/ D&D 3.5 in particular.

    This is sort of tangent to that discussion, but I'd venture that in a 'Rules Heavy' system like D&D, the portability of the characters is something that makes some unique types of storytelling possible. I'm thinking Living Greyhawk/Convention type settings. When the gameplay is extremely dependent on the DM, it's harder to move around.

    This sort of builds on the idea of D&D as simulation/storytelling game, as opposed to simply a mechanic for storytelling.
    Last edited by Roethke; 2007-04-13 at 08:42 AM.
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    Default Re: D&D, Systems And Storytelling

    Since D&D is an encounter based system there are some problems with trying to tell a story and getting enough encounters so that all the players haver their nice treasure and exp. While its got some glaring flaws as far as pure mechanics go I have so far avoided abuse of the system. I actually never knew that any of these flaws existed until I discovered this particular forum. Still, even with the difficulty of the combat and the roleplaying not meshing well, Ive gotten quite a few stories and fun out of 3.5. I have to, I can't afford to buy another system.
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    Default Re: D&D, Systems And Storytelling

    Quote Originally Posted by Roethke View Post
    Folks, due to the recent, spirited discussions on this topic, I figured they deserved their own thread, if only to hamper rampant thread-derailment.

    Let's keep this thread 'baggageless' as possible and try not to get it locked. Please respect each others' playstyles. It is a frickin' game, after all. And Please, please, please, no insults. On the flipside, try not to read too much into other posters words. And of course play by the rules.. http://www.giantitp.com/forums/announcement.php?a=1


    I'll be back in a bit to post...
    ------------------------------------------------
    So, there's been some contention as to how much mechanics get in the way of Storytelling w/ D&D 3.5 in particular.

    This is sort of tangent to that discussion, but I'd venture that in a 'Rules Heavy' system like D&D, the portability of the characters is something that makes some unique types of storytelling possible. I'm thinking Living Greyhawk/Convention type settings. When the gameplay is extremely dependent on the DM, it's harder to move around.

    This sort of builds on the idea of D&D as simulation/storytelling game, as opposed to simply a mechanic for storytelling.
    Lately I have begun to regard D&D (and in fact the whole d20 system) as more of a wargame than an RPG.

    I'm not a big fan of GNS theory overall, but D&D is pretty much a textbook example of extreme Gamism. The rules as written have no provisions to encourage narrative or character development*, and they frequently fly in the face of logic (e.g., invisible people flanking). Story and realism alike are sacrificed in the name of a competitive tactical wargame with extra crunch. You can fix these "problems" by house-ruling it all to hell, but that seems like an awful lot of work so that you can, in effect, give personality and background and character development to chess pieces.

    Which is fine by me, actually. I like wargames, and I feel a lot happier approaching D&D from that angle rather than trying to shoehorn it into a category where I think it doesn't belong. I'll just keep working on my own homebrewed RPG to take over the "story and character" side of my gaming life.

    *Except alignment, which I find is more of a hindrance than a help to developing character personality.
    Last edited by Dausuul; 2007-04-13 at 09:03 AM.

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    Default Re: D&D, Systems And Storytelling

    (Post transplanted from other thread)

    Quote Originally Posted by Bears With Lasers View Post
    Which ones, and why? What does D&D bring to the table that they don't? How does it contribute to rather than detracting from storytelling?
    I'm not a game designer. I judge a system based on feel and how much fun I had (since that's all I really care about), rather than analysing the mechanics, so I can't give you a particularly in-depth answer. However, off the top of my head:

    I like the fact that D&D doesn't have mechanics for story, because I think the best stories tend to come from the interactions between the players and the random stuff that happens in-game. I've played in a couple of modern-conspiracy-type games and at least one D&D game where the DM focused on trying to 'create a story' and they never worked very well, because the DM was trying to force it rather than grow it.

    On the other hand, my old gaming group still cracks up laughing remembering a low-level D&D encounter involving gnolls, horses, a pistol-wielding ranger, and an Entangle spell. I'd say that if you still laugh at something that happened in a RPG five years ago, it must have been pretty good.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bears With Lasers View Post
    I'm not saying you can't. At least, I don't recall saying that. It's possible to do so.
    What I'm saying is that when you do so, the system itself isn't helping you. See the Stunting mechanic example--some rules affect gameplay in a positive (for that particular game; you wouldn't want people doing Awesome things in a gritty realistic game) way. D&D's rules don't do that.
    I've played in stunting-type games, and I don't think that they help stories, or awesomeness. The trouble with stunt mechanics is that at the end of the day, you're determining your character's effectiveness by how much the DM likes your descriptions. That hurts suspension of disbelief, for me. Devaluation also sets in - a super-acrobatic-death-defying move is impressive in real life because it's difficult and dangerous. When everyone's doing them all the time, it quickly stops being impressive and becomes fluff - yeah, yeah, we're all in awe of how amazing you are, just like the last ten times, can you hurry it up now?

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    Default Re: D&D, Systems And Storytelling

    Having played and DMed freeform games for some time in addition to D&D, I'd say that it's simply that the two are different but often equal types of fun.

    The thing about mechanics is that it can help with balance because there is an objective scheme which determines the overall power level of characters. This isn't always the case with D&D, because it was designed with a lot of other conflicting things in mind, but it's theoretically the goal.

    Along with that, there are both visceral (rolling dice and moving around miniatures) and strategic (various combat actions, spell choice) aspects that can be very appealing, since unlike many other games which provide them, RPGs tend to be very fluid and accepting of unique situations. Thus, even people who tend to be lukewarm on pure roleplaying can get into hybrid games like D&D.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Saph View Post
    I like the fact that D&D doesn't have mechanics for story, because I think the best stories tend to come from the interactions between the players and the random stuff that happens in-game. I've played in a couple of modern-conspiracy-type games and at least one D&D game where the DM focused on trying to 'create a story' and they never worked very well, because the DM was trying to force it rather than grow it.

    On the other hand, my old gaming group still cracks up laughing remembering a low-level D&D encounter involving gnolls, horses, a pistol-wielding ranger, and an Entangle spell. I'd say that if you still laugh at something that happened in a RPG five years ago, it must have been pretty good.
    Well, trying to force the story is always bad. I think it's a mistake to approach it from the position of "trying to tell a story;" I prefer the attitude of "encouraging story."

    For example, I don't like it (either as a player or a GM) when a character dies due to bad luck in a minor skirmish. It just feels anticlimactic and annoying. So I like systems that make minor skirmishes more survivable than major clashes.

    Similarly, I like mechanics that reward players within the system for pursuing their characters' ideals and goals. I think such things help counter the tendency of many players (me included) to drift toward whatever tactic will maximize the PCs' chances of success, regardless of whether it's in character to use it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Saph View Post
    I've played in stunting-type games, and I don't think that they help stories, or awesomeness. The trouble with stunt mechanics is that at the end of the day, you're determining your character's effectiveness by how much the DM likes your descriptions. That hurts suspension of disbelief, for me. Devaluation also sets in - a super-acrobatic-death-defying move is impressive in real life because it's difficult and dangerous. When everyone's doing them all the time, it quickly stops being impressive and becomes fluff - yeah, yeah, we're all in awe of how amazing you are, just like the last ten times, can you hurry it up now?

    - Saph
    With this I completely agree. Stunt mechanics are a nice concept, but the execution usually just means players wracking their brains for one more over-the-top description so they can scrape out that bonus. Sometimes the game flows better and is more fun when you just say, "I attack. I hit. He takes damage. Bob, your turn."

    I prefer a system where you get a small number of "bonus points" that you can spend to improve your odds on a tough roll. I think that does more to encourage cool stunts without making them ho-hum.

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    Default Re: D&D, Systems And Storytelling

    I can see where Bears is comming from, but I fall on Saphs side of this debate. I have played dozens of different systems, from hunter, that has almost no framework at all, to Rolemaster which has an entirely rigid structure. I have found that the only thing that affects the style of play is the mix of players.
    The players make the game (GM included) the system is just there for event resolution.
    The thing that does make a differance in my experiance is the players familiararity with the rules. That is where D&D falls down a bit, a lot of folk struggle with the prescribed actions that they can make during a round.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Charity View Post
    I can see where Bears is comming from, but I fall on Saphs side of this debate. I have played dozens of different systems, from hunter, that has almost no framework at all, to Rolemaster which has an entirely rigid structure. I have found that the only thing that affects the style of play is the mix of players.
    The players make the game (GM included) the system is just there for event resolution.
    The thing that does make a differance in my experiance is the players familiararity with the rules. That is where D&D falls down a bit, a lot of folk struggle with the prescribed actions that they can make during a round.
    Huh. I've had the opposite experience. A couple of years ago, I joined a group that was playing Aberrant. Lots of story, character background, complicated intrigues, et cetera. We switched to D&D and things turned into a hackfest. Now we're looking at going back to Aberrant (or some other system), because people are nostalgic for the RP.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dausuul View Post
    Lately I have begun to regard D&D (and in fact the whole d20 system) as more of a wargame than an RPG.

    I'm not a big fan of GNS theory overall, but D&D is pretty much a textbook example of extreme Gamism. The rules as written have no provisions to encourage narrative or character development*, and they frequently fly in the face of logic (e.g., invisible people flanking). Story and realism alike are sacrificed in the name of a competitive tactical wargame with extra crunch. You can fix these "problems" by house-ruling it all to hell, but that seems like an awful lot of work so that you can, in effect, give personality and background and character development to chess pieces.

    Which is fine by me, actually. I like wargames, and I feel a lot happier approaching D&D from that angle rather than trying to shoehorn it into a category where I think it doesn't belong. I'll just keep working on my own homebrewed RPG to take over the "story and character" side of my gaming life.

    *Except alignment, which I find is more of a hindrance than a help to developing character personality.
    Huh. I had never heard of GNS theory, or any of the others mentioned in the article. Obviously people put a lot of time effort and thought into how we play. It's interesting, but at first blush seems to be a bit too ambitious to be accurate.

    I'm not sure I'm with you on D&D = Competitive Tactical Wargame+fluff.

    It definitely leans in that direction (and the history of the game probably shows why) but the only system I've played in which felt vaguely like that was Hackmaster, which is a caricature of D&D (and a fun little system).

    I don't think a system has to provide crunchy-encouragements for fluff to be considered good for storytelling. I'm thinking Call-of-Cthulu. (heh. spell-check wants to turn Cthulu into 'Duluth' Now that's funny). The setting itself engenders good storytelling-- if you like Lovecraft, you like long-winded, baroque descriptions. Beyond that, the sheer lethality of combat, along with the assumption that the PC's are not heros, but just slightly odd folk caught up in events make the system lean away from a wargaming approach. The only crunchy-rewards are for when you use your skills, and even then they're not that huge.
    "I was working on a case. It had to be a case, because I couldn't afford a desk. Then I saw her. This tall blond lady. She must have been tall because I was on the third floor. She rolled her deep blue eyes towards me. I picked them up and rolled them back. We kissed. She screamed. I took the cigarette from my mouth and kissed her again."

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    Default Re: D&D, Systems And Storytelling

    I'll have a lot more to say on this--and posts to address--later, but for now let me note that CoC's extreme lethality of combat and Sanity rules are mechanics, and they're huge when it comes to influencing gameplay.

    I'll also note that stunting doesn't necessarily have to Bring the Awesome, it can just be moderately descriptive (for a 1- or 2-die stunt). It's almost certain to be more descriptive than the "I roll X. Do I hit? Okay, I roll Y for damage" that D&D combat has a huge tendency to become.
    Last edited by Bears With Lasers; 2007-04-13 at 09:38 AM.

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    Default Re: D&D, Systems And Storytelling

    The problem here, as everywhere, is that the term "story" is essentially meaningless.

    White Wolf games strongly encourage Story. They strongly encourage story by providing a system which gives the GM (sorry, storyteller) pretty much absolute power, combined with numerous mechanisms (XP, access to new and cool powers, powerful NPCs) by which the GM can bribe or coerce his players into cooperating with a pre-scripted narrative.

    Dogs in the Vineyard strongly encourages Story. It does this by providing the GM with resources which he is mandated by the system to use to present the players with a series of moral dilemmas, the players are then required to confront those dilemmas, make moral decisions, and reflect upon those decisions.

    Where GNS theory goes wrong is in saying that White Wolf's definition of "story" is wrong and DitV's definition of "Story" is right. In fact neither of them are right (and I dislike White Wolf games and DitV pretty much equally, almost exactly because they both present a definition of "Story" that I don't care for).

    Saph considers "story" to be "a memorable sequence of events" so for her D&D produces stories. I consider "story" to be "a sequence of events which meaningfully changes the lives of characters I care about" so I don't think D&D is particularly set up to produce stories.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Roethke View Post
    Huh. I had never heard of GNS theory, or any of the others mentioned in the article. Obviously people put a lot of time effort and thought into how we play. It's interesting, but at first blush seems to be a bit too ambitious to be accurate.
    As I say, I'm not a big fan of it. The core concept--that RPGs contain Gamist, Simulationist, and Narrativist elements--can be useful in clarifying one's thinking about a game, which is why I brought it up in the first place, but their prescriptions for actually using these things in game design seem way off the beam.

    Quote Originally Posted by Roethke View Post
    I'm not sure I'm with you on D&D = Competitive Tactical Wargame+fluff.

    It definitely leans in that direction (and the history of the game probably shows why) but the only system I've played in which felt vaguely like that was Hackmaster, which is a caricature of D&D (and a fun little system).

    I don't think a system has to provide crunchy-encouragements for fluff to be considered good for storytelling. I'm thinking Call-of-Cthulu. (heh. spell-check wants to turn Cthulu into 'Duluth' Now that's funny). The setting itself engenders good storytelling-- if you like Lovecraft, you like long-winded, baroque descriptions. Beyond that, the sheer lethality of combat, along with the assumption that the PC's are not heros, but just slightly odd folk caught up in events make the system lean away from a wargaming approach. The only crunchy-rewards are for when you use your skills, and even then they're not that huge.
    *shrug* From my point of view, D&D has too many elements that screw with my suspension of disbelief, like the aforementioned flanking+invisibility, or the availability of resurrection-for-cash without dire effects on society and the game world. It also has too many elements that actively punish players for "character decisions," like two-handed weapon fighters being dramatically superior to dual-wielders and sword-and-board. I may think dual-wielders are cool, I may want to play a dual-wielder, but if I do the game will punish me by making me unable to fight effectively. (Or at least it would have, before the Tome of Battle came along.)

    Then, too, D&D's non-combat mechanics are shoddy at best and horribly broken at worst. See Diplomancer.

    Finally, D&D also inflicts tremendous punishment on players who aren't good at optimizing, if they're playing with others who are. Nobody likes feeling useless. The DM and skilled players can go out of their way to give the un-optimized character a chance to shine, but often that just means the less-skilled player feels both useless and condescended to.

    For all these reasons, I think D&D works way better as a wargame than it does as an RPG. I've had many fun campaigns in D&D, but the DM usually had to beat the system down in order to make it that way. I prefer a system that doesn't require beating down.

    (What's that you say? Aberrant also requires extensive beating down to be playable? Well, yeah, which is why I'm designing my own RPG from the ground up... but at least Aberrant's mechanics are loose and vague enough that house-ruling them to fix the problems is comparatively easy, and it's usually just a matter of tweaking some numbers. D&D has so many dependencies and ripple effects that it can be very hard to fix one problem without creating half a dozen others.)
    Last edited by Dausuul; 2007-04-13 at 10:04 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bears With Lasers View Post
    I'll have a lot more to say on this--and posts to address--later, but for now let me note that CoC's extreme lethality of combat and Sanity rules are mechanics, and they're huge when it comes to influencing gameplay.
    You betcha. in a CoC game I was in, the influence of sanity and combat left most of the party in the situation where the characters, role-played properly, would probably decide to go home, hide under their respective beds, and pray to God the cultists forgot about them.

    After that, we decided a little more heroism was probably a good idea in CoC PCs.

    EDIT (on topic): But I guess the larger point that I missed, is that CoC doesn't really reward Fluff, but it sure as heck penalizes a combat-oriented approach.
    Last edited by Roethke; 2007-04-13 at 09:51 AM.
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    Default Re: D&D, Systems And Storytelling

    I'm with Bears in this case (Albiet in a less angry way, hehe). In my opinion, D&D is a very rules heavy system, and that in and of itself detracts from Roleplaying. (See Bear's example about swinging on the rope back in the other thread)

    But, that isn't to say I think that D&D isn't good for Roleplaying. While the system itself does very little to encourage people to Roleplay, it isn't a terribly difficult thing to work around, but it DOES involve some houseruling. Things like talking through social situations rather than rolling diplomacy/bluff, or giving people extra skillpoints to spend on Profession skils. (Now, I'm sure I'll get called a powergamer for this, but I know very few people who would put ranks into a profession skill off the top of their head.)

    The fact of the matter is, D&D is a game, a game that sometimes involves roleplaying, and sometimes involves dice-heavy combat. If you want to just roleplay, there are much better systems for it, if you want to just fight, then there are much better systems for it, but what D&D offers is the best of both worlds.

    There is nothing in the system that makes it so you do more than kill things, take their stuff, and move on, it's the players and DM that make it rise to more than that, but as Bears said, the system does get in the way from time to time, but it's not a hard thing to houserule or roll with, depending on the way the group plays.

    Just as an example, one of the DMs I play with is a real hardass on the rules, something I don't like in general, because I do like a more balanced RP/Tactical game, but I was willing to give it a go becauser the guy is a good friend, and a good writer.

    The problem came from the fact that my girlfriend, who had always DMed under more lenient DMs, wanted to care for our group's horses. She knew all sorts of tricks for dealing with horses, injuries, and such because she has several horses back home. But she didn't put any ranks into any sort of animal handling skills, so there was no way her character would know these tricks, and the DM went along with that, causing frustration for her, and our group when none of us could properly care for horses.

    Now, you could just as eaisly say that due to backstory, she would know how to handle horses, but that would still be a houserule, because her character sheet does not have any ranks in Handle animal, any profession skill, or even Ride. So while it is easy to allow for Roleplaying in D&D, you still need to either houserule it, or the system will get in your way.

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    Default Re: D&D, Systems And Storytelling

    Holy crap...

    The rope example made me realize I have been totally penalizing my players for overblown description. *changes ways* It's the true meaning of Christmas...

    Anyway, DnD's time where it is most likely to interfere with RP is when there are situations like the above. It is a heroic type game, but since it has such a heavy rules focus, sheer incapability of the characters to DO that heroic stuff that is so common (jumping from rooftop to rooftop, swinging from ropes, effectively fighting with a shield).

    As for the comment about knowing OOC things about horses versus non OOC things....1) not all knowledge requires ranks, the very very basics are probably common knowledge that everyone would know. For example, it is assumed everyone in your party can slap together a dead-animal-the-ranger-just-shot stew with no ranks in Profession: Cook. 2) If it is really a problem, ask the DM if everyone can roll a skill check and then the player can tell them some information. In a game I play in, I am a Barbarian and my girlfriend does a wizard. This is her first time actually playing, and if she is stumped about something someone more experienced may have picked up, the DM has her roll knowledge: arcane, and I am allowed to give her minor advice based on how well she did.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan_Hemmens View Post
    White Wolf games strongly encourage Story. They strongly encourage story by providing a system which gives the GM (sorry, storyteller) pretty much absolute power, combined with numerous mechanisms (XP, access to new and cool powers, powerful NPCs) by which the GM can bribe or coerce his players into cooperating with a pre-scripted narrative.
    Wow. It sounds, from this, as though you've had some negative experiences with White Wolf, which may have been the result of bad STing. I've been playing and running White Wolf for years, and this has not at all been my experience. No part of the Storyteller system requires or encourages forcing players to cooperate with a "pre-scripted narrative." Plotless sandbox games may be a bit of a challenge to run in White Wolf, but the way in which events play out in a narrative is very much determined by the actions of the players. That's been my experience, at any rate.

    That said, I find that the way D&D is set up doesn't really encourage roleplaying, and can even make it more advantageous not to roleplay much. D&D tends to reward players for doing what is most tactically sound, rather than what makes sense for a character. The most egregious offender in this regard, in my opinion, is the experience and advancement system. First off, by RAW, you get experience points for killing or otherwise overcoming monsters and enemies, and occasionally for not being killed by traps. There's a suggested, optional mechanic by which DMs might give out a pittance of XP for roleplaying, but it is far outshined by the kill-stuff-get-stuff reward. There's little or no mechanical encouragement for clever ideas, or dramatic moments, or tough ethical choices.

    Then, there's what you do with that XP. Levelling up. Rather than allowing a character to focus on a specific ability that he or she considers most important at any given time, and to practice to improve it, D&D forces a character to wait several sessions and then have all aspects of his being improve at once. A character can spend all his free time weightlifting, but until he hits a level divisible by 4, he's not going to profit from the effort, even if weeks or months pass in-game. However, a character who has spent all his spare time practicing tying knots and escaping bonds to gain cross-class ranks in Use Rope and Escape Artist is going to improve his arcane prowess the next time he levels, by... osmosis? Not only does this remove player agency, but I think it also strains verisimilitude.

    Also, as I think someone else mentioned, D&D penalizes players who don't optimize, if there are other people in the group who do, or who are better at it than them. If a character is going to be dramatically less effective overall (not just less effective at one thing, but more effective at another, but on the whole) for making choice X instead of choice Y, even if choice X makes more sense for the character, as is often the case in D&D, then players with certain character concepts will either be at a disadvantage or have to play against character. The system is effectively penalizing a player for making character-appropriate choices. Some characters just work better as a sorcerer (or, gods forbid, a bard!) rather than a wizard, or a one-hand, single-sword fighter (or, dare I mention, a TWFer) rather than a THF-Power Attacker. Yet these are "less effective" or "sub-optimal." Certainly, people who make these more "optimized" choices may have character concepts that support these choices, but other characters? They run into problems.

    Let's talk about combat. Disregarding for a moment the maze of micromanaging, often-nonsensical rules, there seems to be little or no room for roleplaying or description; everybody wants to get through everyone's actions as quickly as humanly possible. And that's fair; combat can be tedious. But at the same time, for the duration of the encounter, the characters often cease to be individuals with personalities and become computer sprites. "I move here, I attack, I roll X. I hit, I roll Y damage. Your turn." "I cast P spell, it does Q damage." "I full attack, rolling A, B, C, and D. I hit three times, doing E, F, and G damage." Descriptions of attacks, maneuvers, spell effects, sensory details, only bog down combat and waste time, for a lot of people. How often have you finished a combat encounter and been healed, with absolutely no idea of where your character's injuries had been? Not that hit locations actually matter in D&D (another pet peeve; they micromanage everything else, why not hit locations or called shots?), but having a better idea of what a character has just experienced helps to roleplay his reactions. It would also, I think, make combat feel a little more... important? Knowing your character took 73 damage in that last fight means a lot less than watching him get stabbed in the gut, and then use his free hand to try to keep his viscera from spilling out, while dealing the deathblow one-handed to the Big Bad.

    I could rant more. I might do so later. That's good for now.
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    Default Re: D&D, Systems And Storytelling

    Quote Originally Posted by Dausuul View Post
    ...Finally, D&D also inflicts tremendous punishment on players who aren't good at optimizing, if they're playing with others who are. Nobody likes feeling useless. The DM and skilled players can go out of their way to give the un-optimized character a chance to shine, but often that just means the less-skilled player feels both useless and condescended to.

    I think this is from where many of the problems spring-- Differing expectations for the game. Part of it has to do with how D&D is often the default RPG System, since it's the one everyone knows/owns. Other systems probably bring a less diverse group of folks to each table-- CoC, everyone goes into it expecting a Horror/Lethal/Storytelling campaign. Champions, it's a bang-em-up superhero experience. Shadowrun, squad-based stealth game.

    But with D&D, you often have wargamer sitting down next to storyteller, and it takes some fine DM management to make it work.
    "I was working on a case. It had to be a case, because I couldn't afford a desk. Then I saw her. This tall blond lady. She must have been tall because I was on the third floor. She rolled her deep blue eyes towards me. I picked them up and rolled them back. We kissed. She screamed. I took the cigarette from my mouth and kissed her again."

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    Default Re: D&D, Systems And Storytelling

    Quote Originally Posted by Roethke View Post
    I think this is from where many of the problems spring-- Differing expectations for the game. Part of it has to do with how D&D is often the default RPG System, since it's the one everyone knows/owns. Other systems probably bring a less diverse group of folks to each table-- CoC, everyone goes into it expecting a Horror/Lethal/Storytelling campaign. Champions, it's a bang-em-up superhero experience. Shadowrun, squad-based stealth game.

    But with D&D, you often have wargamer sitting down next to storyteller, and it takes some fine DM management to make it work.
    This might explain a lot of it. I've often wondered at the . . . well, nitpickyness of a lot of the complaints about D&D. Like the invisible-flanking thing Dausuul was complaining about - that seems so minor to me that I have to think hard to even get into the state of mind where it might bother me. Ditto for a lot of the overpowered things - players spend hours upon hours paging through supplements to come up with the most powerful build they can think of, then complain that it's overpowered!

    It makes a lot more sense if you take into account the defaultness of D&D. No-one who hates horror is going to play Cthullu, but with D&D you get both people who dislike combat-heavy and people who dislike story-heavy games.

    On the other hand, that bring-everyone-togetherness of D&D is one of the things I like about it. It's fun having such a weird assortment of players all in the same group.

    - Saph

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    I like adding the aspect of Story in my games, but again as someone had mentioned before it's best if the characters help "grow" it.

    I've found that having an established story can get railroaded by PC's, and so many of my stories go with the type of formula where there are "events" taking place that could or could not have the PC's involved. I generally leave the hook for them and whether they decide to go along with it or not is up to them. Either way the events will play out for good or ill. ((usually more ill if the involvement from the PC's in the main story was at a minimum. Then they get to deal with the fallout after. Eg. The party didn't save the princess, now the evil wizard used her as hostage and now runs the kingdom under his heavy hand...))

    A good way of doing this is by having your "primary" story, and several other possible "side treks" that in the end could end up working with the primary at the end. And again It doesn't take much planning besides the events of the primary. I tend to leave my "side Treks" as just basic encounters that will develop depending on how the PC's deal with the issues.
    Last edited by Black Hand; 2007-04-13 at 12:10 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jannex View Post
    Wow. It sounds, from this, as though you've had some negative experiences with White Wolf, which may have been the result of bad STing. I've been playing and running White Wolf for years, and this has not at all been my experience. No part of the Storyteller system requires or encourages forcing players to cooperate with a "pre-scripted narrative." Plotless sandbox games may be a bit of a challenge to run in White Wolf, but the way in which events play out in a narrative is very much determined by the actions of the players. That's been my experience, at any rate.
    I'm going to echo this sentiment. I've been running the story teller system (Specifically Exalted 1E) pretty intensely for the last few years, and the closest I've found to "bribing" per say is through my own action, not anything inherent in the system.

    On the note of "bribing", I view my rewards for: Well written backstory/stunts/etc. as holding a very good purpose. It's positive reinforcement for creative effort. Now, I'm sure that most GM's don't consider that when running their games, as their first objective is to have a fun time (That's mine as well, in most cases). But coming from my experience, the system I ran before really moving on was a summer program that's goals were development of the individual along with tutoring and educational purposes. I like it when people are excited about their character, be it "Oh man, I totally just did an awesome athletics thing" to actually writing some stories (Granted, I have a very touchy spot if the story comes across as if it were something from Eye of Argon, retching comes to mind).

    So, if a player gives you a 3 page story he wrote, what do you do with it? Do you say "That's nice bub, back to the game"? Do you give him some reward? Do you try to find plot hooks in the story they wrote? Those are all pretty interesting questions actually.

    But that's besides the point. I don't see anything in the story teller systems saying I need to force my players to write good back stories. That's myself saying it.

    To touch on a note in a thread about swords and boards.

    Any DM that lets the mechanics of the rules get in the way of a good story doesn't deserve to be a DM.
    I wave my hands at rules all the time if I am having an issue with them, this is true, but I disagree with this sentiment. The reason rules are in place are to provide a commonality of understanding between the GM/ST/DM what have you and the players.

    To echo back to some of the gaming I did before, what happens if one of the purposes of your system is to teach physics? Well, we can't exactly tell Gravity "Ok, stop getting in the way of my character, I'm trying to fly". Now, if it results in something I don't want, I'm sure I'll set it in a way to fix itself, but I can't put a dunce cap on Gravity and tell it to go to it's room.

    I suppose I am bouncing from place to place here and touching lightly on the subjects. I blame early morning classes for that. But that's a few of my thoughts to those subjects in particular.
    Last edited by Poison_Fish; 2007-04-13 at 12:42 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Saph View Post
    This might explain a lot of it. I've often wondered at the . . . well, nitpickyness of a lot of the complaints about D&D. Like the invisible-flanking thing Dausuul was complaining about - that seems so minor to me that I have to think hard to even get into the state of mind where it might bother me.
    Most of these issues are quite minor, yes. But there are just so many of them that the cumulative weight gets pretty burdensome for me.

    Say you have Cleave. If you miss an incorporeal creature due to the 50% miss chance (presumably indicating that your weapon passed right through it with no effect), why can't you Cleave and hit its buddy hovering next to it?

    For that matter, while we're on the subject, what exactly does that 50% incorporeal miss chance mean? How come 50% of the time your weapon phases through the spectre and does nothing, and the other 50% it does full damage? When I'm describing the effect of a hit, as I like to do, how do I describe the miss and how do I describe the hit?

    Natural healing. Why does a guy with Con 8 take less time to recover from being in negative hit points than a guy with Con 16?

    Coup de grace. Why is it that a wizard with a dagger needs over a minute to slit the throat of a high-level fighter?

    Stat bonuses on attack rolls. Why does Strength govern your ability to hit things with a dagger? A greatsword, okay, you're bashing aside their defenses with brute force, but a dagger? And how exactly are you applying that +10 Strength modifier to your dagger damage, anyhow?

    I could go on and on. It bugs me that when I sit down and really think about what's happening in the game world, a lot of it just makes no sense at all. All RPGs have problems like this, of course, but D&D seems to positively revel in them. Half the special abilities and feats have skimpy, unhelpful descriptions of "what you're actually doing when you use this ability," and the other half have no description whatsoever.

    Quote Originally Posted by Saph View Post
    Ditto for a lot of the overpowered things - players spend hours upon hours paging through supplements to come up with the most powerful build they can think of, then complain that it's overpowered!
    That's a fair complaint, but I've had problems where a character I thought was just reasonably well-designed turned out to be way overpowered compared to the other party members.

    Quote Originally Posted by Saph View Post
    It makes a lot more sense if you take into account the defaultness of D&D. No-one who hates horror is going to play Cthullu, but with D&D you get both people who dislike combat-heavy and people who dislike story-heavy games.
    This is true. But I feel that D&D caters rather too much to the latter at the expense of the former.

    For an RPG, anyway.
    Last edited by Dausuul; 2007-04-13 at 01:59 PM.

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    Alright, my problem as a long term D&D player with 3.5 has nothing to do with story versus wargaming. Instead my real complaint comes from the very optimalization skills required to build and advance a character. Pure class/level systems tend to linearize a character so its predictable down a specific path of advancement what will happen. A character point build system tends to be a bit open so a player can take several ways to get the effect he wants out of his character. The 3.5 system overdoes it on the Feat reliance as a mechanic I think. It takes players either great familarity with the system or long hours of research to figure out what feats give them the combinations they need. Then combat suddenly goes from a flowing stream of events and actions to a fragmented stop and go as each feat proves the exception to the rule. I've got a gaming group that are fairly experienced gamers with experience in any number of systems. After playing 3.5 for awhile we've had to introduce the house rule of Retconng, meaning that every 5 levels a player gets the right to overhaul his character sheet from top to bottom as some other quirk of optimalization pops its head up because it was not obvious from the beginning. Its bad when you have a group claiming Rolemaster and Champion superhero games are easier to make characters for than 3.5. My whole complaint against the system is there is no elegance in it. It is complicated without being complex, complex meaning the mathematical definition where a system of interaction is balanced within itself with symmetry and dynamic equilibrium.
    Last edited by grayburst; 2007-04-13 at 01:21 PM.

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    Default Re: D&D, Systems And Storytelling

    Actually that's a good idea Greyburst.

    For me, I've noticed that you need a feat for too many things now, restricting the PC from coming up with any 'intuitive' actions based on the situation they're facing. Because of which I've come upon many situations where I would have to say " Sorry you can't do that, you don't have the feat for what you want to try do "

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jannex View Post
    Wow. It sounds, from this, as though you've had some negative experiences with White Wolf, which may have been the result of bad STing. I've been playing and running White Wolf for years, and this has not at all been my experience. No part of the Storyteller system requires or encourages forcing players to cooperate with a "pre-scripted narrative." Plotless sandbox games may be a bit of a challenge to run in White Wolf, but the way in which events play out in a narrative is very much determined by the actions of the players. That's been my experience, at any rate.
    I was, I admit, overstating a little for effect. I essentially didn't want to sound like I was saying "these games are better than D&D".

    WW does, however, strongly define "Storytelling" as "The Storyteller telling a story to the players," it assumes that it is the ST who will design the setting, set the theme and mood for the Chronicle, will decide what sorts of character concepts are suitable, and will decide what major events are going on in the gameworld. A lot of the Storytelling advice actually does seem to assume that you're going to work out what's going to happen in advance as well.

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    I wave my hands at rules all the time if I am having an issue with them, this is true, but I disagree with this sentiment. The reason rules are in place are to provide a commonality of understanding between the GM/ST/DM what have you and the players.
    And you'd be wrong to disagree. DM's are encouraged to cheat, if it makes the game more fun for everyone. Every game says that. To let the fate of the PC's hinge upon die rolls and only die rolls at every point in the game is ridiculous and gets in the way of a good story.

    The rules are there as tools for the DM to create a consistent campaign setting, based upon how they choose to implement them. Regardless of the rules system used. They are also there to create a consistent system by which the players create their characters and level up. Nothing more.

    The reason there are no rules other than Rule Zero for storytelling in D&D, is that they're not required. It's impossible in fact, to create rules other than Rule Zero, for good storytelling. There are plenty of guidelines and suggestions to facilitate a good story and methods by which you can reward and encourage players to participate, such as giving them a situational modifier based upon how well they describe their actions.

    WW does, however, strongly define "Storytelling" as "The Storyteller telling a story to the players," it assumes that it is the ST who will design the setting, set the theme and mood for the Chronicle, will decide what sorts of character concepts are suitable, and will decide what major events are going on in the gameworld.
    So does D&D. Read the DMG. Re-read it. Especially the first chapter about being a DM and the chapter about world building. It's the same as what Whitewolf has said about being a Storyteller.

    Running a D&D game without a campaign setting isn't an RPG. It's a glorified board game with spreadsheets. That kind of D&D "game" wouldn't even require a DM. Just a chart of likely NPC actions and reactions in combat.

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    Default Re: D&D, Systems And Storytelling

    Quote Originally Posted by Grr View Post
    Running a D&D game without a campaign setting isn't an RPG. It's a glorified board game with spreadsheets. That kind of D&D "game" wouldn't even require a DM. Just a chart of likely NPC actions and reactions in combat.
    We tried that once. It was fun.
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    Default Re: D&D, Systems And Storytelling

    Quote Originally Posted by Grr View Post
    Running a D&D game without a campaign setting isn't an RPG. It's a glorified board game with spreadsheets. That kind of D&D "game" wouldn't even require a DM. Just a chart of likely NPC actions and reactions in combat.
    "XYZ Isn't an RPG" is a meaningless accusation. There is no single element, or set of elements, which can be used to define an RPG that does not either (a) exclude many things which clearly *are* RPGs, or (b) include many things which clearly are *not* RPGs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Were-Sandwich View Post
    We tried that once. It was fun.
    Never said it couldn't be fun. Just don't expect me to agree that it's an RPG.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Poison_Fish View Post
    On the note of "bribing", I view my rewards for: Well written backstory/stunts/etc. as holding a very good purpose. It's positive reinforcement for creative effort. Now, I'm sure that most GM's don't consider that when running their games, as their first objective is to have a fun time (That's mine as well, in most cases). But coming from my experience, the system I ran before really moving on was a summer program that's goals were development of the individual along with tutoring and educational purposes. I like it when people are excited about their character, be it "Oh man, I totally just did an awesome athletics thing" to actually writing some stories (Granted, I have a very touchy spot if the story comes across as if it were something from Eye of Argon, retching comes to mind).
    But that's exactly the point. "Positive reinforcement for creative effort" - bribes. Or cookies if you'd rather. The "good roleplayer, have a biscuit" method of GMing.

    Some games view players as people that have to be encouraged to make a creative effort by a combined carrot and stick approach. Some view them as creative people who are actually going to make a creative effort as standard.

    So, if a player gives you a 3 page story he wrote, what do you do with it? Do you say "That's nice bub, back to the game"? Do you give him some reward? Do you try to find plot hooks in the story they wrote? Those are all pretty interesting questions actually.
    Mostly, I say "thanks, but I've got a lot going on at work so I don't really have time to read this."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Grr View Post
    Never said it couldn't be fun. Just don't expect me to agree that it's an RPG.
    Okay, so maybe your definition of an RPG is different than most folks here--

    Take an extreme example.

    Say, the good old Neverwinter Nights PC game. There was a great module-builder that let a designer script all sorts of events, and create a pretty detailed world that ran according to D&D rules.

    Now the PC's could go one adventures in this world, talk with each other and Role-Play, just like in a regular D&D game, but all the mechanics were handled automatically by their computers. In at least some of the settings in which I played, there were 'DM' beings that could interact with the players and change the world.

    Even if the number cruncher is a glorified spreadsheet, I'd definitely call this a role-playing game. There's a setting, often a detailed adventure, and players using their creativity to figure out solutions to problems set up for them by the creator. (of course the possible solutions were more limited than in Pen&Paper D&D).

    And if it's not a role-playing game, what is it? The PC's are taking on roles of adventurers, developing characters, interacting with each other, and the world to tell or take part in a story.

    Of course this is an exaggeration of how folks often play tabletop (or PbP) D&D, it's harder (though not impossible) to implement rule zero here. But if this qualifies as an RPG, then even 'wargamey' D&D should.
    "I was working on a case. It had to be a case, because I couldn't afford a desk. Then I saw her. This tall blond lady. She must have been tall because I was on the third floor. She rolled her deep blue eyes towards me. I picked them up and rolled them back. We kissed. She screamed. I took the cigarette from my mouth and kissed her again."

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